AccuScore: Curse of the Home Run Derby

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Each year, fans look forward to the Home Run Derby even if managers of the competing players often cringe. While the derby usually lights up the night, statistics show it is the catalyst for a second-half power outage.

It is easy to say the derby has an adverse effect because players alter their natural swings to hit more home runs. Statistically this is hard to prove, but Bobby Abreu's(notes) second-half collapse in 2005 got us thinking.

Bobby Abreu won in 2005.
(Getty Images)

Abreu's record of 41 derby home runs should have been a prelude to a huge second half. Instead, it seemed like a curse that plagued him for the rest of the year. He finished with only six homers after the break, highlighting a negative trend that sees derby contestants struggling for the remainder of that season.

In looking at the 40 finalists and semi-finalists over the past 10 years, statistics show 60 percent of players saw a decrease in slugging percentage. Of those 24 players, nine suffered what can be considered a major loss of power (-0.100 in slugging percentage). In comparison only two players gained that much in slugging percentage.

Slugging Percentage

Year

Name

1st Half

2nd Half

Difference

2002

Sammy Sosa

0.641

0.536

-0.105

2006

David Wright(notes)

0.575

0.469

-0.106

2005

Bobby Abreu

0.526

0.411

-0.115

2001

Luis Gonzalez

0.745

0.62

-0.125

2003

Garret Anderson(notes)

0.597

0.463

-0.134

2009

Albert Pujols(notes)

0.723

0.582

-0.141

2003

Jim Edmonds(notes)

0.668

0.507

-0.161

2002

Paul Konerko(notes)

0.571

0.402

-0.169

2008

Lance Berkman(notes)

0.653

0.436

-0.217

Average

.562

.432

-.130

Players chosen for the Home Run Derby are top hitters from the first half of the season (this season captains were named to select the AL and NL sides). Some players have been invited on the strength of a great first half of the season. These are the players who fit the profile for a substantial decline in the second half.

If you are going to take this kind of look at the Home Run Derby participants, it is also necessary to look at the sluggers that did not compete. AccuScore looked at the top five home run hitters who did not participate in the derby for each of the past 10 seasons. A whopping 70 percent of those players actually improved their slugging percentage after the All-Star break.

Slugging Percentage

Year

Name

1st Half

2nd Half

Difference

2004

Albert Pujols

0.599

0.721

0.122

2003

Alex Rodriguez(notes)

0.544

0.679

0.135

2007

David Ortiz(notes)

0.556

0.695

0.139

2001

Richie Sexson

0.476

0.625

0.149

2008

Carlos Delgado(notes)

0.455

0.606

0.151

2001

Shawn Green

0.527

0.682

0.155

2010

Jose Bautista(notes)

0.543

0.702

0.159

2002

Jim Thome(notes)

0.604

0.773

0.169

2008

Manny Ramirez(notes)

0.518

0.723

0.205

Average

0.535778

0.689556

0.153778

The Home Run Derby curse is real. Since 2001, derby participants have averaged a .025 decline in slugging percentage. The top home run hitters who did not participate averaged a .036 increase in slugging.